Last night Ryan Johansen came back to Nationwide Arena for the first time since his trade to the Nashville Predators. The trade brought Seth Jones to the Blue Jackets and it marked a trade that helped out both teams.
After the game, Johansen was asked by the media about the lack of video “thank you” from the team. His response was raw and pointed when talking to Stu Mason from WPKO-FM.
“I am a little disappointed they didn’t put anything on the Jumbotron and say ‘thank you’ or anything like that. I think we all know who made that call, but whatever.”
He could be referring to anyone when making that statement but the likely candidates include the Blue Jackets front office.
The question becomes, did Johansen deserve a tribute video from the Blue Jackets?
Johansen was a top pick in the 2010 draft that saw plenty of great players selected. His first two years with the team weren’t great by any stretch; after his second year with the team, he played in the AHL playoffs and was a scratch at one point. From that point on, for better or for worse, Blue Jackets’ fans decided that Johansen was going to be the target of much of their vitriol if he wasn’t 100% amazing every second he was on the ice.
He showed up the next year and put up 63 points and was a point per game player in the playoffs that year against the Pittsburgh Penguins. One would think after a performance like that, a player of his stature would be elevated to another level in fans’ eyes. Unfortunately, (or fortunately depending on who you talk to) for him, the Jackets community demanded more from him as a “number one center.”
During the 2014-15 Blue Jackets season that was ravaged by injuries, Johansen put up 71 points and helped elevate players like Nick Foligno to new heights. Comments about his defensive performance were starting to be brought up and how hard he played the game. Despite putting up numbers that put him in the top ten of nearly every offensive category, more was demanded of him.
That next off-season, the Blue Jackets picked up Brandon Saad, a two-time Stanley Cup winner and winger that was expected to be a natural partner of Johansen. After the acquisition, talks between the Blue Jackets and Johansen’s camp became contentious when discussing his extension.
Johansen referred to the initial offer from the team as a “slap in the face.” After that, for most fans, Johansen lost his likability. He suddenly became an entitled player. Someone that wanted something that he didn’t deserve. Somehow wanting to get what you believe you are worth in a contract makes you entitled. Having many of the negotiations play out in the press didn’t help matters. Nonetheless, contract negotiations happen all across the league. The fact that some believe that Johansen’s case was special because of how it went down is asinine. Front offices try to pinch pennies and the Jackets tried to do it with one of their best all-time players.
After all, Johansen was a restricted free agent, and that status is supposed to give the team all of the leverage. Then the front office had a player push back and, from their perspective, it made them look bad. From that moment on it shouldn’t have been a surprise that the long-term relationship wasn’t going to work out between the two sides.
As the Jackets started off their story historically bad start under Todd Richards, the eyes of the fanbase were then turned on to Johansen to hopefully carry the team. It didn’t take long after John Tortorella took over for Johansen to be in his sights. Johansen’s conditioning was called into question and shortly thereafter his effort was scrutinized by fans. It somehow never occurred to anyone that the leak of a locker room conversation would somehow affect the general consensus of his effort levels. Whether it happened intentionally or not, Johansen became a divisive topic. Don’t pay any mind to the fact that he was over a half a point per game player during that dreaded October. Or how about that November, when he was nearly a point per game player? Would anyone remember that?
It didn’t matter, the season was lost after the 0-8 start. Scapegoats were needed and Johansen became the perfect one. When he was traded for Seth Jones, he was third on the team in scoring at the time. It wouldn’t ever be good enough for some. The Jackets were lucky enough to get a great return in Jones.
When Jones returned to Nashville, he was greeted with a “thank you” video. When Jared Boll and Fedor Tyutin came back to Columbus, both were given “thank you” tribute videos. Boll took constant brain trauma and Tyutin was the shining beacon of hope on otherwise terrible Jackets’ teams. They’ll be remembered fondly but not greatly when looking back on this team’s history.
Johansen was one of the best offensive players to play for the Blue Jackets. He was gifted and it oftentimes looked effortless, which was more of a problem than anything. He deserved a nice reception from fans and from the team itself.
Sure, it is only a video and it doesn’t really mean much. Why should anyone care about something so frivolous? It should be noted, though, that Johansen was hoping for a video. He was wanting a nice reception. Why? It could be the fact that he had made multiple memories here including an All-Star weekend performance that involved the Ohio State Buckeyes. It could have been that he made friends on the team and still thinks of them highly.
Johansen wasn’t petty here, he wanted something lesser players have been given multiple times before. What does this say about the front office? After they trade away a player and have had multiple run-ins with them, should the aforementioned player not expect anything in return? It all of the sudden has turned personal.
What is this supposed to say to the other players on the roster? Who are the petty ones here when a one minute clip could’ve been run and the conversation could’ve ended. Now it is a bigger issue than it needs to be.
Be careful Alex Wennberg. When you’re looking for number one center money this summer. You could be next on the chopping block.